Saturday, 27 September 2014

Let me introduce myself:

I should have done this sooner, but I'm bad at introductions. I find it easier to talk to someone for a while before going into who I am or what I do. That way you're less likely to get a false impression of me based on my name, title, where I'm from, where I worked, etc. Much better that I make you laugh, or smile (god I hope you're smiling) before we have that awkward intro.

Here's a little bit about me and why I'm rambling at you. 

I'm 23.
I'm Australian- born and raised in Rockingham, W.A. Throw your stones. 
I've been to Europe, the US, Indonesia and New Zealand multiple times, but I've never been to Broome and want to go. 
A little over a year ago I discovered I enjoy helping people learn, and thought I might try teaching. 
I have a degree in Film, and will soon have a GradDipEd in Secondary Education: English and Media. 
I have been told it's hard to tell when I'm being sarcastic and when I'm not. 
I have been told my voice is too loud. (I was tested for poor hearing because of this when I was a kid, hearing is fine, I'm just too loud). 
I love to write, but I had to learn how to do it twice when I was younger, because my cute mirror-writing phase apparently didn't go away. 
I have a caring family I am forever grateful for. 
I have an awesome fiancĂ© and a small group of wonderful friends. 
And I'm an intern! Of the teaching kind. 

What's an intern? 

The university where I study my graduate diploma sent me a letter late last year. I gave it a quick read, thought 'meh', and threw it away. It was about some special scholarship you could apply for where you worked at a school for a whole year instead of doing a six-week major prac. It was called an internship. It sounded sort of interesting, but I worked four days a week and thought I needed more money than the scholarship was offering - plus what if you hated the school? 

Thank god for Facebook. I saw a friend's status talking about how she was going to apply for this amazing opportunity, and saw heaps of people commenting saying they were going to do the same thing. If Intern 1 (that's her name now- we work together!) thinks this is really good, maybe I should reconsider applying, I thought. This is one of those times when peer pressure, unintentional as it was, had a positive outcome. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. I wouldn't have to work in my competitive sales job. I would get way more experience than the average education student. And I would know for sure whether this teaching gig was the right thing for me. 

Fast-forward 9 months to where we are today, and I'm one of four interns in our English department at a great school. The other interns are practically my sisters and brother- I can't image work without them. I have a crazy-hyperactive mentor teacher who can claim a huge part in helping me make it this far with my sanity attached, along with his friend, Intern 3's mentor- these two are basically mum and dad (or dad and dad, to make them sound even more like a couple). I work with other inspirational colleagues, some who amaze me with their strength and determination. I teach around 100 hilarious, strange, smart, creative teenagers who surprise me all the time. 

Perhaps the most important thing you should know about me, is that I love my job. 

Goal setting.

Shortly before the end of term, my teacher and I ran a goal-setting lesson with our year 10 general English class. 

I should add that this is my favourite class, out of the four that I have (can I say that? Picking favourites is probably something I shouldn't do... but I guess I just did). I'm not entirely sure why. It might be because they're funny, and laid-back, and most of them put in the effort when required and do good work. It might be because they remind me of me, when I was fifteen. When I started teaching them I was apprehensive... I guess I had low expectations of their behaviour and ability, but they are genuinely lovely kids. I found myself telling them stories about my own life; letting them know that I failed year 11 because I didn't believe in myself and that I didn't want to see the same thing happen to them, performing poetry (if you can call it poetry- written by me) whilst standing on top of a desk, telling them how I visited Bebelplatz in Germany where 20,000 books were burned and that is why it's important that we study English. The list goes on. There's something about that class that gives me courage to show them some of myself as a person, not just a teacher. 

That's what I told them when we did goal-setting. As well as setting school/English goals, I told them I wanted to hear about some personal goals, because just as to them I want to be a person, not merely a teacher, I wanted to know them as people, not just English students. They are more than their grades and assessments and written expression, a message I feel is quite often lost in a secondary school context. 

To give them an example, I wrote on the board that my personal goal was to believe in myself more as a teacher. I explained that I often became too emotionally invested in my classes, and dwelled on lessons that didn't go as well as I wanted. To achieve this goal I decided that I had to write down at least one good thing I had done that day, every day. Sometimes it's as trivial as making a joke to stop a behaviour issue, sometimes it's explaining something in a way that everyone understands, sometimes an activity that most enjoy. Once, it was helping a student at tutoring who happily said to me, "I think I'm understanding English for the first time in my life". 

My year 10s set goals about downhill mountain biking, about football, about getting better at their part-time job, and studying more for school. I hope they keep working on their goals. This blog might help me achieve mine. 

Term 3 thoughts...

A few weeks ago I had this awful realisation about teaching: I will never be as good as I want to be. 

This feeling had been creeping up on me throughout the term, and when I realised exactly what it was that was making me feel so not-myself, I was shattered. I almost started crying -you know when you do that awkward gulp and it feels like there's a lump of hot coal in your throat- but I told myself I was being silly and emotional and held the tears back. Even though I didn't cry, I still felt depressed.  

It's depressing to come to the realisation that you will never be good enough for your own standards. And it's not a simple matter of lowering them. I can joke and laugh and pretend not to care all I want, but when I'm lying awake at 1am thinking about how I can make tomorrow better than today, I know I'll never be that person who just clocks in and out. I know these pesky feels will resurface, again and again, until I promise myself I'll do better next time. That behaviour issue won't happen again, I'll plan more or I'll make a decision faster or I'll be more with-it and if I can just try hard enough, my students won't cry, or get bored, or feel frustrated, or swear and fight with each other. They will be happy, they will learn, they will improve, they will stop failing and start trying and all these wonderful things will happen if only I can be good enough.  

Now that kind of thinking is a surefire way to burn out. I know this. Still, I find it hard to bear. 

Because what's the point in doing something if you don't improve? I know that I'm better than I was at the start of this year, but I'm not better enough. I want to be great, not good. I want to be able to see that I'm making a positive difference, in a tangible way, every day. And sometimes I can't and it depresses the hell out of me, because what is the point of all this struggle if I'm not helping anyone?  

It's like wanting to run -wanting to sprint- but only being able to master a slow zombie-shuffle. You know how running works, you know what you should be able to do and you can see other people running around you, but you just can't seem to get there. I'm a lot more patient with other people than I am with myself, and being a zombie is beyond frustrating.  

This whole year I've been trying to come to terms with the fact that I'll always be learning, and that I'll never be a perfect teacher because they don't exist (something my wise mentor tells me regularly- I think he can sense when I'm feeling angsty, or maybe he just talks so much that he often happens to say things at the right time) and I absolutely hate it. I hate the knowledge that I'll never feel content, or satisfied, or accomplished- knowing the end is always in sight, but never in reach. I hate it.  

This was how I felt, until recently. I don't know what brought it on, but while I was wallowing in self-pity a little splinter of thought stuck in my mind.  
I don't actually need to be as good as I want to be.  
I just need to be good enough for them. 

"Them" not being the school, or university, or even my mentor teacher and other teachers I look up to.  

"Them" being the weird little people I do this job for- my students.  

 And without going into boring details, I think that maybe I am.